Council chiefs have dropped controversial budget plans to slash workers’ pay to save £934,000.
Conservative and City Independent cabinet members at Stoke-on-Trent City Council agreed to amended budget proposals this afternoon, after councillors dramatically voted to reject the original plans last week.
The new budget, which will go to full council for final approval later today, removes the proposed cut to workers’ terms and conditions, which would have seen employees lose their extra payments for working weekends and evenings.
Trade unions members, who have campaigned vigorously against the cuts and threatened industrial action, claimed this would have left some of the council’s lowest paid employees, such as care workers, thousands of pounds worse off.
The resulting budget gap will be addressed by reducing the planned contribution to reserves by £934,000, from £5 million to £4.1 million. This will see the general reserve increased to £10.1 million rather than the £11 million originally planned.
Labour opposition leader Mohammed Pervez proposed this amendment to the budget at last week’s full council meeting.
But the council will still seek to develop and consult on ‘sustainable ongoing savings proposals’ totalling £934,000, with the aim of restoring the reserve to £11 million at some point.
In the report to cabinet, assistant director for finance Nick Edmonds emphasises the need to find ongoing savings.
He states: “The use of reserves to support permanent savings must only ever be seen as a one-off temporary measure and must not be used as a substitute for the delivery of ongoing sustainable alternatives.
“The city council must take the steps necessary and the difficult decisions required over the coming financial year to ensure ongoing savings are delivered as planned to provide a viable alternative to the use of reserves to secure future financial sustainability and resilience.”
The original budget was voted down due to a rebellion by City Independent councillors, including deputy council leader Ann James and fellow cabinet member Joanne Powell-Beckett, who said they could not vote for the T&Cs proposal.
But the cabinet voted unanimously to back the amended budget in a very brief meeting this lunchtime.
No other changes are proposed in the amended budget, which now includes cuts totalling £8.3 million, down from the original £9.2 million.
Other savings include reviewing alcohol and drug services to save £1 million and closing five children’s homes. Council chiefs are also proposing a tax hike of 3.99 per cent.
The full council will meet to vote on the amended budget at 2.30pm.